Few games were as anticipated as that of the Socceroos taking on Peru in a match that would seal their fate regarding the World Cup. For audiences watching at home, it was a nail-biting affair that did little to calm their nerves. We watched as the minutes counted down and each side attempted to attack only to be met with a strong defensive line that foiled all efforts. Eventually, it seemed each defensive line was impenetrable and after 120 minutes which saw neither Peru or the Socceroos score, it came down to a penalty shootout.
Penalties are, perhaps, the most devastating victories of all. To think you come so close only to have your fate decided by a lucky strike or perceptive goalkeeper is to imagine what that locker room must feel like post-match, particularly for that player who was unable to find the back of the net. Heroes are borne in the penalty shootout and for goalkeeper Andrew Redmayne, that was exactly the case as Alex Valera stepped up to the mark only to see the ball stopped by Redmayne.
What followed was pure ecstasy on the features of Redmayne, who sported a grin so wide it could have swallowed his frantic teammates running up to him with chaotic glee. It’s this moment that will be remembered for years to come, marking the Socceroos’ fifth straight entry into the World Cup.
Graham Arnold made the bold choice of bringing on his third-choice goalkeeper for Mat Ryan just minutes prior to the penalty shootout against Peru. It was a decision that would ultimately change the course of the game, but nevertheless one that had the potential to backfire incredibly. As The Guardian reports, “The line between madness and genius is a thin one, frequently separated by little more than results and the whims of fate. Had it gone wrong, Arnold’s tenure would have consigned to greater depths of infamy than had he lost by sticking with Ryan – who had been between the sticks in the Socceroos’ last triumphant shootout.”
Redmayne triumphed spectacularly, illustrating the progress he has made since being nurtured by Arnold during his time at Sydney, which has seen him become one of ALM’s finest goalkeepers. Just a year ago, Redmayne was ready to hang up his gloves entirely and finish his teaching degree to try to find work at a primary school in Sydney. Thankfully, he stuck with his football ambitions and for that, we have him to thank as we can now look forward to sporting the green and gold for the World Cup.
Speaking about the team’s campaign ahead of the World Cup, Redmayne said, “A massive acknowledgement to Graham Arnold. What he has had to endure as a coach to get to this point over many years, what a crowning glory for him. People have got opinions on this and that on the other, but when you come to the end of a penalty shootout, if they didn’t win that they would be the other side of the coin, but the fact of the matter is the team under him prevailed, he guided the team to World Cup football, the biggest sporting event on the planet, and massive congratulations.”
Now, all attention will turn to preparation for the big event. While it’s certainly a momentous occasion and one worthy of celebration, the fact remains that the Socceroos’ success is still largely eclipsed by the shadow of former players, namely those belonging to the 2006 squad which made its way to the final 16 and proved the world wrong when it came to Australian football. While the current squad doesn’t have the star power of Harry Kewell, Mark Viduka or Tim Cahill, it still has the drive to succeed and the motivation we’ve come to expect of our sporting stars.